"These observations also led Professor Pickering to the important conclusion that all the dark areas were covered with vegetation, and that the bright or red areas were deserts, the colour of the latter being exactly that of our deserts when viewed from a great distance. Herschel's idea had been that the red areas were land covered with vegetation of a red colour, and that the dark areas were seas.
"It was, however, now quite clear that permanent lines in such numbers and length could not exist in seas; and other observations have demonstrated that, instead of appearing smooth and uniform as water would, these areas are full of detail and variations, and that they pass through all the changes of colour, according to seasons, that land covered with vegetation does upon our earth. In the winter time, when the land is fallow, it appears brown or chocolate colour; in the spring, the time of early vegetation, it becomes a pale blue-green tint; as the season advances the blue-green becomes darker; whilst in the autumn it tends to a light brown, and at length changes into chocolate colour in the winter. This has been carefully noted time after time when the planet has been in a position to be observed; and the same sequence of change—which can only be associated with vegetation—has always occurred.
"It may, therefore, now be accepted as a proved fact that the dark areas are land upon which vegetation grows, ripens, and dies away according to the seasons of the Martian year.
"Professor Pickering also made another discovery, viz. a large number of isolated, round, darkish spots, most of which occurred where canal lines joined or crossed each other. Some of these had been seen much earlier by other observers, but Professor Pickering was the first to see them in large numbers and call attention to them. He termed them 'lakes,' but later discoveries from continued observation showed that they were not water, and they were then given the name of 'oases.' Some are seventy or eighty miles in diameter, and nearly two hundred are now marked on the maps. They mostly occur in certain definite positions—in the point where single canals join or cross each other, or, in the case of double canals, between the two lines. It has been noted that they undergo the same seasonal changes as the dark areas do, but only as regards the outer portion of the circle, which gradually fades away in the latter part of the Martian year; whilst the central portion becomes fainter but does not disappear.
"Of course it was at once declared that these oases were illusions which would naturally be seen where two lines crossed each other and were viewed from a great distance. But they only occur in some cases at such crossings, and there are many junctions without any oases. Moreover, they are also seen between the double canals where there are no junctions nor anything which could give rise to illusion.
"At Flagstaff Observatory it was also noted that the canal lines themselves underwent seasonal changes. Those viewed during the winter season were always so faint as to be scarcely discernible, but at the period when vegetation would naturally begin to grow they became more easily visible, and still more distinct as the season advanced.
"Then Professor Lowell announced his great conception, which has given rise to so much controversy, and has also been much misunderstood and misrepresented.
"Briefly, his conclusions were as follows:—'Science teaches that a small planet will become cool and develop life much sooner than a large one. Similarly a small iron casting will become cool in a few days, whilst a large one will be many weeks or even months in cooling. A small planet will also develop more rapidly, and reach its final stage when it will be incapable of supporting life, very long before a larger planet like our earth will have reached that stage. Applying this to Mars, a much smaller planet than our earth, it is scientifically reasoned that Mars has passed through nearly all its stages and is approaching its last. It has lost much of its atmosphere, all its large bodies of water, such as oceans or seas, and, as regards the land, that has become levelled by erosion, and about five-eighths of the whole area has become desert.
"'Science also shows that in such circumstances rain would cease to fall over the larger part of the planet, but the water vapour in the air would be carried by natural circulatory currents of air to the polar regions, and there deposited in the form of snow or hoarfrost, thus forming a large snow-cap at the north pole in one season of the year, and a still larger snow-cap at the south pole in the opposite portion of the year.
"'These snow-caps would begin to melt in the spring as soon as the tilt of the planet brought the pole to the position where the sun would take effect, and would continue during the early summer. As there is no permanent glaciation on a planet which has lost its water, the snow-cap would melt to a very large extent, and the resultant water must go somewhere.
"'The inhabitants of the planet could not exist without water, and their land would become entirely desert unless supplied with moisture. It will, therefore, be seen that the only thing possible, as a means of self-preservation, would be for them to make channels to carry the water in the most economical way from the poles to the parts where it was needed. Unless they found a means of doing this death stared them in the face. What greater incentive could there be!'
"This is what Professor Lowell is convinced has actually been accomplished upon Mars, with the result that there is a network of canals all over the planet by which water is conveyed from each pole and carried across from one hemisphere into the other. The lines seen show where the canals are, but not the canals themselves, because they are too narrow to be seen. The lines really are broad bands of vegetation irrigated by the canals which run through them, hence the seasonal changes which have been noted in their colour.
"All this seems very reasonable, deduced as it is from scientific fact and from the many different things which have actually been seen and confirmed by many thousands of observations, but it has met with the most bitter opposition on the part of many astronomers, both professional and amateur. Theory after theory has been brought forward with the object of disproving the existence of the canal lines; some of these, such as eye-strain, diplopia, bad focussing, illusion, and imagination, have already been mentioned.
"Proofs of the reality of the lines having become too strong for most of the objectors, they then turned their endeavours to the overthrowing of the theory that the lines were canals, suggesting that they were all of natural origin.
"Amongst these suggestions it was stated they were edges of shadings, natural growths of long lines of trees and vegetation, cracks in the surface of the planet or foldings caused by contraction, trap-dykes, &c., but not one of these suggestions will bear investigation. I have already pointed out the impossibility of shadings having straight edges for thousands of miles in so many hundreds of cases. It is equally impossible to imagine natural growths of trees and vegetation in bands of uniform width and thousands of miles long, and nearly all forming arcs of great circles.
"They cannot be cracks, for they are of uniform width throughout their length, and always run direct from one definite point to another, no matter how distant apart they may be.
"Cracks, such as we see on the moon, though sometimes straight, are usually wide near the centre of disturbance which caused them, and narrow off to a fine point, and often end anywhere out in open space; moreover, they are usually very irregular in width, and take a zig-zag course instead of a straight one. This, as I have said, is not the case with a single canal line on Mars. If they were cracks, some at least would be irregular and end in open space. The same remarks apply in the case of foldings or ridges.
"The oases, once declared to be illusions, were then said to be large openings in the soil at the junctions of the cracks; or they might be craters, and so on. But this does not account for the appearance of the oases between twin canals, or the systematic manner in which the canals effect a junction with the oases. Again, therefore, the theory fails to fit the known circumstances of the case.
"Dr. A.R. Wallace rather favours the idea of natural cracks or faults in the surface of the planet; and suggests that the outer crust of Mars may be a crystalline or similar formation which would lend itself to the production of numerous cracks in the surface. He points to a few cracks and faults in the earth's surface, all of small size, as confirming this idea; but the cases he adduces only seem to prove that there is on our earth absolutely no natural formation which can in any way properly be compared with the lines seen on Mars. Moreover, there seems to me no ground whatever, beyond the needs of the theory, for supposing that the crust of Mars is of a crystalline nature, or such as would predispose to the formation of cracks. On the contrary, all the evidence is against it—the existence of vegetation in some parts, the general appearance of the red portion, and the large clouds of sand which have been observed, all being indicative of a sandy formation, in the red portion at least.
"The theory also fails to take into consideration the most important point of all, viz. that every canal runs direct from one definite point to another, perhaps over two thousand miles distant. In very many cases numerous lines connect with one small area, or even with one point. The Lucus Ascraeus has no less than seventeen of these canals connecting with it, and appears to be a kind of Martian Clapham Junction.
"The deserts on Mars serve the same purpose as our seas, as lines of communication may be established anywhere across them. A map of Mars, showing the canals converging towards some one part, bears a great resemblance to our maps showing the courses taken by vessels from different parts all converging upon one seaport.
"Much has also been said about the widths of the canals as rendering them impossible of construction, so let us consider how wide they are.
"The lines seen vary from two or three miles up to nearly thirty miles in width; but there are only one or two of the latter, and the majority are five to ten miles wide. Notwithstanding Professor Lowell's repeated statements that they represent bands of vegetation, these widths are often referred to as the widths of his canals. I have frequently seen them described as 'fifty miles,' a 'hundred miles,' and even as 'hundreds of miles' wide. These exaggerations usually appear in newspapers and journals, and evidently arise from insufficient knowledge on the part of the writers.
"Owing to the small gravitation upon Mars, the work of digging canals would be extremely easy upon that planet (even assuming the Martians to be without machinery) as compared with the same work on our earth; but there is neither necessity nor reason for the construction of such enormously wide canals as those mentioned. Moreover, it seems to me that very wide canals would defeat the object for which they were constructed; and Professor Lowell does not regard the widest lines as being canals. They may be remains of natural channels or arms of the seas, as they do not run so straight as the canal lines proper.
"Our people," I remarked, "have argued both against the possibility of constructing such canals and of forcing water along them, because, as they say, none of our engineers would be able to accomplish such work. I certainly have more confidence in the skill and capabilities of our engineers, and doubt not that if they were required to solve a similar problem they would overcome all difficulties and carry out the work successfully."
"I'm with you there, mon!" exclaimed M'Allister.
"I may remind you," I proceeded, "that when steam navigation was first mooted, it was confidently asserted that no steamship would ever succeed in crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and I can remember when it was learnedly demonstrated that it would be quite impossible to construct a canal across the Isthmus of Suez! How small the prophets must have felt when the work was accomplished!
"I am afraid it is usual to take a very limited view of all such matters, and we judge of them entirely from what we know ourselves, never looking ahead, as it is considered unscientific to go beyond our own knowledge. Because something may be quite impossible to us, it does not follow that it is impossible to more advanced people.
"Think how many great scientific facts which are quite commonplace at the present time were unknown and undreamed of even so recently as our grandfathers' time! Who then can forecast what may be possible five hundred years, or even a century hence; and who will be bold enough to fix a limit to the possibilities of science! I freely admit I am an optimist in these matters."
"I think, Professor," said John, "that your view is really the more scientific of the two. While it may not be possible accurately to forecast all the facts, intelligent anticipations may logically be formed from a survey of our own past history."
Proceeding, I then remarked, that "Another discovery made at Flagstaff Observatory was that at the ends of certain canals, where they joined the dark areas, were small V-shaped dark markings which Professor Lowell has termed carets. From their occurrence in these positions only, and from his observations of the peculiar and extremely systematic manner in which the canals, especially the double ones, run into the carets, he has concluded that they must serve some special and important purpose.
"We have been told upon high authority that the carets are illusions, and could not possibly be seen, as the planet is so distant from us. But the fact remains that they have frequently been seen and drawn; they always appear the same, and are never seen except in connection with canals which join dark areas. These dark areas, I may say, are believed to be the beds of ancient seas, from which the water has long since departed.
"In connection with all these disputed lines and markings it has often been urged that though they are seen through comparatively small telescopes they are not seen when a very large instrument is used; and it has also been said that observers, knowing what they wished to see, simply imagined they did see it. We have, however, abundant proof that both these arguments are unreliable and incorrect.
"It is a well-known fact that when a faint object has been once seen through a telescope, others are able to see it through a smaller instrument. This was the case with the satellites of Mars, which have been seen with much smaller instruments than that used to discover them.
"The fact that such objects are really seen is proved by the observer marking them on his drawing in their correct position, although they may have moved from the point at which they were originally seen.
"I will give you an illustration of the ease with which it is possible to overlook something that should be clearly visible to you, yet it is not seen by you until your attention is called to it by some one else. Almost every one has had some such experience:—
"You may have on the front of your coat a small stain, or grease-spot, in a position where you could plainly see it, yet might wear the coat for days or even weeks in complete unconsciousness of the existence of the stain until some one pointed it out to you. After that you cannot look at the coat without seeing the stain, and it becomes so persistently obtrusive that you are compelled to have it removed. There is, however, no imagination about your seeing the mark."
John here said to me: "Professor, I noticed you said that many who do not believe in the actuality of the lines and markings on Mars frequently refer to the fact that, while they are stated to be seen through small telescopes, they are quite invisible through a very large instrument, and they regard this as proving that the lines or markings do not exist. Is there not something in this argument?"
"Well, John," I replied, "the argument sounds not only plausible, but reasonable, and inexperienced persons might use the argument, believing it to be a sound and good one. I must, however, confess that I have been surprised to see this argument used by persons who must surely know that there is no weight in it at all.
"It is well known to all practical observers, and indeed to all who have studied optical matters, that, for several reasons, very large telescopes are quite unsuited for the observation of fine planetary detail.
"The real advantage of these enormous instruments lies in their great 'light-grasp,' which enables observers to see very faint points of light, such as small satellites of planets, faint stars, double stars, distant comets, or nebulae, which could not be seen with a smaller instrument necessarily having less 'light grasp.' Yet this very excess of light, which is the great advantage of a large instrument, is one of the things that spoils the definition of faint planetary details; it drowns them all out, or 'breaks them up.'
"Again, these large instruments are much more liable than smaller ones to what is termed 'chromatic' and 'spherical' aberration; and this also is detrimental to definition. No very large refractor is entirely free from these defects.
"Another objection is that, in using such large and long-focussed instruments, a much higher power must necessarily be employed than in the case of smaller instruments. This high power magnifies all the little movements and disturbances in our atmosphere to exactly the same extent as it magnifies the object looked at, with the result that these disturbances blur out all fine detail. The canal lines on Mars could never be seen in such circumstances. If the object were looked at through a smaller instrument, with lower power, it might be fairly well seen, for the atmospheric disturbances would not be magnified to such an extent as to spoil definition.
"There are very few nights in the year when these immense instruments can be used to advantage on the planets, whilst a smaller instrument might define well three or four nights out of every six. It is on record that the user of Lord Rosse's great reflector stated that there were only about three nights in the year when its best definition could be obtained; and its use has produced very meagre results, compared with what had been anticipated.
"It is also almost universally recognised that in using these great instruments, whether for photography or for the visual observation of fine detail, it is absolutely necessary to stop down the aperture to a very large extent, by reducing it to about 12 inches in diameter or even less. The big telescope is thus really converted into a small one of long focus.
"There is, in addition, the acknowledged fact that nearly every discovery of new detail on planets has been made with a comparatively small telescope, although the same objects may have been under constant observation for years with big telescopes. The new detail was never noticed until after it had been seen with a smaller instrument, and perhaps only then when atmospheric conditions were unusually good.
"As an instance, I may mention that the faint 'crape ring' of Saturn was seen by Dawes when using an 8-inch aperture to his telescope; yet it had never been discovered with the large instruments, although the planet is one that is under constant observation when in a position to be seen.
"I could give innumerable instances of similar cases, but enough has been said to show that because some object cannot be seen in a very large telescope, it is no proof at all that the object does not exist.
* * * * *
"Amid the chaos of varied, and often self-contradictory, theories respecting Mars—some abandoned by their own authors; others in which facts and conditions had to be assumed for which there was not only no evidence, but actual disproof by many recorded observations—Professor Lowell's conceptions stand out clearly and boldly.
"They are all founded on the results of prolonged and systematic work in the observation of the planet, not only by himself but by numerous colleagues—work in which many of his critics have had little or no experience under favourable conditions. His conceptions fit in with observed facts with all the accuracy of the pieces in a child's picture puzzle; whilst his logical deductions are supported and enhanced by his wide knowledge of physical science and planetology.
"Yet, as I have both heard and read, his views and discoveries have been described as 'sensational,' 'fanciful,' 'fairy tales,' and by other terms which I would rather not quote.
"Underlying some of these objections there seems to be an idea that some reason must be found for opposing anything and everything which would tend to indicate the possibility of intelligent life existing upon any other planet than the earth; although it is difficult to understand why such a possibility should be so abhorrent. It is a view that does not commend itself to me, but I need not say more on that point.
"Nicola Tesla, the great electrician, is, however, convinced of the existence of life upon Mars, and he has expressed in very emphatic terms his opinion of the opposite view, which, however, I refrain from quoting. He says that Mars must have passed through all terrestrial changes and conditions, and that the whole arrangement of the canals, as depicted by Professor Lowell, would seem to be artificially designed. He then goes on to state that he has discovered electrical disturbances on the earth which must have come from Mars and no other planet.
"In the treatment he has received from some of his smaller critics (whose vehemence is usually in inverse proportion to their knowledge of his work and writings) Professor Lowell has had an experience similar to that of many other observers who have done good work.
"If an observer be blessed with the happy combination of good eyesight, a good instrument, and favourable atmospheric conditions, and publishes writings and drawings showing that he has seen something which has not previously been observed, he at once becomes a target for captious critics who seem to be under the impression that all astronomical knowledge begins and ends with themselves, and that anything they cannot see does not exist. It matters not that the observer attacked may have given months to particular observations where his critics have only spent a few hours: he is told that his drawings are incorrect and do not represent the planet; that they may be works of art, but do not represent facts; that he possesses a very vivid imagination, and so on. This procedure may be persisted in until at last the victim either turns and rends his critics or ceases to publish his drawings or records, to the great loss of many others who take an intelligent interest in his work.
"Professor Lowell's telescope is over 32 feet in focal length, and has an object glass of excellent quality 24 inches in diameter, the work of the celebrated Alvan Clark. Thus, whilst not one of the giants, it is not exactly what would be termed a small instrument, and few indeed of the critics have anything approaching it in capacity, while none enjoys the advantage of such ideal conditions in the situation of his observatory.
"I was therefore much amused in reading an effusion by one critic who, in discussing the question of the canal lines, remarked that he could not accept 'these one-man discoveries,' oblivious of the fact that they are the discoveries of many observers. He then very naively gives the illuminating information that his astronomical experience is confined to the 'observation' of the moon for about six months, by the aid of a 1-1/4-inch hand-telescope! Surely, when confronted with a critic of such vast experience and so wonderfully equipped, Professor Lowell must retire discomfited from the field!"
At the conclusion of my remarks both John and M'Allister expressed their thanks, saying that "Now they were informed as to the points on which our scientists were not agreed, they would look forward with still greater interest to our arrival at our destination, for they were as anxious as I was to solve the mysteries of the red planet."
WE ARE MYSTERIOUSLY PREVENTED FROM APPROACHING MARS
The days then passed uneventfully until at last the long-looked-for day arrived, and on the 24th September we were so close to Mars that we hoped to be able to land on the planet by two o'clock in the afternoon. We made ourselves a little sprucer than usual, as we wished to do credit to our own world; and M'Allister wore his overalls to protect his clothes, although our machinery was not nearly so messy to handle as steam-engines usually are.
We had already examined our three machine-guns so that they might be in readiness for any emergency, if some of the ideas of which we had read as to the probable ferocity of the Martians should prove correct. It had, however, been definitely agreed between us that the guns were only to be used as a last resort to defend our lives against a wanton attack, and were to be kept out of sight until they were really required. My own conception of the Martians was, however, a very different one, though I thought it quite right to be prepared for anything which might happen.
As Mars was only about twenty-five miles distant, its surface details could be fairly well seen through the clear thin atmosphere; and, with the aid of a glass, one question at least was definitely settled—the numerous lines of vegetation were fairly continuous; but there were no large canals to be seen, though we thought we could trace some narrow ones.
We could also see several rapidly moving specks in the sky, which, we suggested, might be air-ships of some kind; but they were so far off and indistinct, that we were unable to arrive at a definite conclusion.
Our speed having been gradually reduced, we were now only moving at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour, and it was therefore time to decide on a landing-place. John and M'Allister pointed out a conspicuous spot not very far from the centre of the visible surface of the planet, John remarking that we should be about right if we landed there, because several canals converged to it, and it must, therefore, be a place of some importance. On looking at the map we found that it was marked as the Nodus Gordii, or "Gordian Knot"; so, really, it seemed an appropriate landing-place for travellers who were desirous of solving mysteries.
"Very well, then," I said, "we'll land there if you like, but I had rather a fancy for a different spot, which is on the Sinus Titanum. It is that place over there, near the point where the vegetation curves down in both directions," I remarked, as I pointed out the spot.
"Your place is rather nearer to the equator, and is probably pretty warm; but really it does not matter where we land so long as we arrive on the planet. Your votes are two to my one; so, as you have a thumping majority, go ahead, M'Allister, for the place you have chosen! We will see whether we can cut the Gordian Knot, if we cannot undo it!"
He accordingly directed his course towards the chosen spot; but we had not proceeded very far before everything below us suddenly disappeared, being quite blotted out by something of an ochre tint, which entirely obscured our view of the country.
"Professor," exclaimed M'Allister, "what is the matter? I cannot see where we are going!"
"I can guess what it is," I replied; "we have run into one of those sand-clouds I told you of the other evening, and until we get through, or it passes away, we shall see nothing else. Perhaps we had better go on very slowly."
We went on accordingly, but instead of our getting through it, the cloud seemed to become denser and denser. However, we still pressed on, and, after what seemed quite a long time, we emerged into somewhat clearer air, although there was still a thin yellow cloud below us. Our course had been well maintained, for we seemed to be within ten miles of our destination, which we could just make out through the thin dust-cloud.
Presently M'Allister called out to me, "Professor, I don't know what is wrong, but the machinery is slowing down so much that I am afraid we shall soon come to a dead stop! I have switched on more power, but it does not seem to make any difference!"
"Well, try a little stronger current," I suggested; "but be careful not to overdo it, or we may land upon Mars more suddenly than we shall like."
He tried this, but we had not moved more than a hundred yards when he found that farther progress was impossible. So here we were, only a few miles from our destination, yet prevented by an impalpable and unknown obstacle from reaching it!
We consulted together, but could find no solution of the mystery of this invisible barrier to our progress. Then John suggested that, as we could not go straight on, we should try a different course. So M'Allister altered our course a few points, and once more put on the speed power, only to be brought to a standstill again after a very short spurt.
"My word!" he exclaimed, "I'll not be beaten like this. I've driven an old iron tramp-steamer through scores of miles of thick seaweed out in the tropics, although the machinery was almost worn out and the engines leaking at every joint. Here goes for full speed ahead!" he cried; and, so saying, he switched on full power, quite heedless of my shout of "Do be careful, M'Allister, or we shall all be smashed to pieces!"
"She's got to go!" he replied grimly, "smash or no smash! I never was beaten yet when pushing my way through obstacles, and I'm too old a hand to be beaten now!"
However, he found he was beaten this time, for although he switched on the utmost power, it refused to give any evidence of its existence, and we had to rely on our neutral power in order to maintain our position in the air; though, as events proved, we could not have fallen.
The excitement and tension of the work had thrown M'Allister into a profuse perspiration; and, as he stood moodily mopping his brow with his handkerchief, I heard him muttering and swearing softly to himself. His blood was evidently up, for he made another desperate attempt to get the Areonal to move forward, wrenching his switches with angry jerks, but it all proved labour in vain.
"Well, what is to be done now, John?" I asked; "we have tried two courses without any effect!"
"I would suggest, Professor, that we should go up higher," he replied, "so as to enable us to try again from another altitude, then, perhaps, we may pass above the obstacle."
"A good thought that, John!" I cried. So up we went, the machinery working all right now, and our spirits rose as we soared higher; but, alas! after rising a few hundred yards, the machines began to slow down, and soon stopped altogether.
"The de'il himself must be taking a hand in this business!" exclaimed M'Allister, "for this beats the worst experience I ever had! We can't go up, we can't go down, and we can't go forward! Whatever can we do, Professor? You're a scientific man; can't you suggest something which might help?"
"It's a profound mystery to me, M'Allister," I replied, "but we certainly do not want to remain hung up in space, so I suggest you should try several different courses. Surely, in some direction we shall find a way out of this, and get to our destination."
This plan was tried, M'Allister doggedly setting his course first in one direction, then in another, and trying to put on enough power to force the vessel along; but time after time we came to a standstill after moving very slowly for a short distance.
"It looks as though we were to be hung up here indefinitely," said John. "We do not seem able to get through this mysterious obstacle, whatever it may be, or whatever course we may try."
"Oh, we've not tried all points yet," I said. "We must not give up now we have got so close to the object of our trip. Take a fresh course, M'Allister."
He took a fresh course, and another after that, but with exactly the same result.
I had never seen M'Allister in such a perturbed state before; he actually trembled all over with the intensity of his feelings, and his face had an expression of grim determination such as I should imagine might be seen on the face of a soldier at bay with his back to a wall, and fighting for his life against overwhelming numbers of assailants.
"My word!" he exclaimed, "yon's Mars, and here's us, but it doesn't seem as if we should ever come together. Losh mon, bonnie Scotland for ever! Here goes for another try!" and he switched on the current again with a vicious pull.
We watched the machines with intense anxiety, wondering whether this new course would be any better than the others we had tried—whether the machines would keep moving, or slow down and stop as before.
No, we kept moving; and soon it was evident we were gaining speed rapidly.
"Hurrah, hurrah!" I cried in exultation. "We are doing it this time. Slow down, M'Allister, we are going too fast now!"
"Scotland for ever!" he shrieked. "That did it, Professor!"
Strangely enough, John, usually the most excitable member of our party, was the calmest of the three, and simply remarked quietly, "We've done it this time."
Yes, we had indeed done it this time, but our attention had been so taken up with our anxious watching of the machines that none of us had noticed the direction we were taking.
We had passed entirely through the last remnant of the sand clouds, and it was now beautifully clear, the thin air enabling us to see over a very large area of country. For the first time since leaving the earth I now opened one of the doors very slightly indeed, and tested the effect of the real Martian atmosphere.
It seemed to us rather sharp, with a taste something like that of a tonic medicine, but we were all able to breathe it without any serious inconvenience, though at first it made us gasp.
Being assured there was no danger, I stepped out on to the platform and looked down, then started back in utter astonishment, exclaiming to the others, "Why, look! look! See where we are!"
WE ARRIVE ON MARS AND MEET WITH A STARTLING SURPRISE
On hearing my excited exclamation, John and M'Allister at once stepped on to the platform and, having looked down, were as much surprised as I was, for lo! we were heading direct for the very spot which I had previously told them it was my fancy to land upon, and we were not three miles away from it. We also saw a large town or city close by our proposed landing-place.
"One would almost imagine you were a magician, Professor," said John, "and that this affair was all your work, and intended to secure a landing only where you thought proper."
"No, John," I answered, "I had nothing to do with our coming to this spot, and it is still a mystery to me how it was we were not able to continue on our original course. The Gordian Knot was too much for us after all."
"Well," John said, "it does not matter so long as we succeed in landing somewhere.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed suddenly, "look through the glass over there," pointing forwards as he spoke. "I can see enormous crowds of people evidently watching our vessel."
It really was so, for, as we drew nearer and nearer, we could plainly see an enormous multitude of people who seemed to be drawn up along the four sides of an immense square open space, and they were all looking upwards towards the Areonal.
"Go and have a wash," I said to M'Allister, who had become quite grimy from the perspiration occasioned by his exciting work just previously. "We will see to the machines, if necessary. You must not descend amongst such an assembly of the natives with dirty hands and face."
"No," he replied, "Kenneth M'Allister will not disgrace old Scotland by doing such a thing as that."
"Look sharp, then, M'Allister," John called after him; then, peeping down again, he pointed to the farther side of the square, saying, "Look, Professor, I can see some pavilions over there, and a large dais affair, with a canopy over it! Look at the flags and banners too!" he cried; "and there seems to be a large number of officials round the dais. Perhaps that's the Emperor of Mars sitting there!"
"I doubt that, John," I replied; "but probably he is some very important personage. How singular," I added, "that this spot which I selected should be the only one toward which we were able to steer our vessel!"
"Well, we shall soon know something about that, I expect," replied John.
"Heh, mon!" exclaimed M'Allister, who had now rejoined us, looking spick and span, and with his face shining from the fresh application of soap and water, "I believe they are all down there watching for our arrival."
"It really looks like it," I said; "but how could they have known we were coming? So many scores of thousands could not have been gathered together at a few minutes' notice. Well, you can see to the machines, and take us gently down into that square."
"Professor," remarked John, "those people are not the big, ugly giants, nor the strange animals which some of our folks have imagined the inhabitants of Mars to be. They appear a bit tall; but, so far as I can see from here with the glass, they are a fairly good-looking lot. They seem quite friendly too," he added, "and we shall not require those guns after all."
"No, certainly not," I replied, for now we were close enough to see that the people were waving their hands towards us, and that children were waving bright-coloured flags. Just then a welcoming shout came up to us from below, and we made friendly signs to the people in response. Then they cheered us again and again, so we knew we could safely descend amongst them.
With skilful manoeuvring M'Allister soon brought our vessel down near the centre of the square, and we were all ready to step out. John judiciously, but rather reluctantly, ceased smoking and put away his pipe, not knowing what kind of reception he might have if he appeared amongst these strangers with a pipe in his mouth.
A line of officials was arranged in a curve on each side of the dais, and three of them came towards us from either side, making signs of friendliness and welcome.
Seeing that we had nothing to fear, we at once stepped on to the ground and advanced to meet them. In spite of weighted boots, which we had taken the precaution to wear, we had some difficulty in walking properly; the gravitation being so much less than on the earth we had an irresistible tendency to lift our feet much too high at every step we took.
As we met, each official made a very graceful and courteous inclination of his body, and we all bowed in response. The first couple of officials then conducted me towards the dais, and I could now see that they were very much taller than myself, being quite seven feet nine inches in height. They were, however, so splendidly proportioned that at first their stature had not impressed me as being much above our ordinary standard; whilst their features were most beautifully formed and regular, their complexions being very clear and fresh-looking.
One great peculiarity I noticed in all around us, and that was a peculiar soft and liquid glow in their eyes, which seemed to light up the whole of their features, adding greatly to their beauty and nobility of appearance.
As we approached the dais, its occupant rose and came down the steps to meet us on the level ground. Whatever his rank, he was a most magnificent figure, his whole bearing being serenely dignified, majestic and impressive; whilst the expression upon his radiantly glowing countenance was benign and intelligent beyond anything I had imagined or anticipated, though I had expected much.
What followed, however, was surprising beyond measure, and it was startling and electrifying in the suddenness with which it came upon me; for, as this splendid being moved towards me with stately steps, and both hands outstretched in greeting, he said to me in English, "Welcome to Mars! welcome to my country, oh stranger from a far-off world! In the name of the whole people, I bid you welcome to our world, which we call 'Tetarta,' and to this city of Sirapion!"
I MAKE A MOST AMAZING DISCOVERY
I was so utterly taken aback at this most unexpected greeting in my own native language by one who was apparently the chief inhabitant of this other world that I found it very difficult to collect my thoughts and make a suitable reply.
I know I stammered out something; but, really, the more I tried to speak coherently the more confused I became. This was indeed a very bad beginning for a visitor from a distant world who wished to show to the best advantage in such an august presence, and before such a great assemblage of the people; but it is useless to attempt to conceal the truth, however humiliating it may be. Observing my embarrassment, however, the high personage smiled upon me pleasantly and, after saying a few reassuring words, he gave a signal to the two officials, so we moved aside for John and M'Allister to approach him.
The people, who had remained perfectly silent during this interview—if it can be dignified by that term—now burst out into a volume of acclamation; but I must say that never upon our earth had I seen a multitude so orderly. Everything seemed to be arranged and carried out with military precision, yet I saw no one with arms or weapons nor anything indicating the presence of either military or police. A few individuals, indeed, seemed to be giving some directions; but whatever movements were made by the people were accomplished without crowding, pushing, or jostling.
The Martians, too, evidently possessed fine artistic tastes and ideas, as well as excellent judgment for colour effects. Colour was apparent in great variety in the dresses of both sexes, yet nothing looked tawdry or overdone; for the whole mass presented a perfect and harmonious blending of tints; while the designs on the banners were most artistic and effective, many of the devices being of an astronomical character.
Whilst I was thus engaged in observing the people, one of the officials respectfully saluted me and made a sign that I was to accompany him. I bowed and turned in the direction he indicated, when he conducted me to one of the pavilions near the dais, motioned me to pass through the doorway, then, gravely saluting again, turned and went away.
On entering I found the pavilion fairly large and chastely decorated, but it had only one occupant, who rose and saluted as I entered. He was a splendidly built young man, with a radiant countenance, and when he advanced towards me with both hands outstretched, as the other high personage had done, I noticed the same peculiar soft and luminous glow in his eyes that I had observed in the other Martians.
As he took my hands within his, the young man looked straight into my eyes, his own beaming with pleasure: then said in English, "Welcome, sir, most welcome to Mars!"
As he stood gazing at me and I at him, something in his features struck me as being familiar. Where had I seen a face like that before? Then suddenly my thoughts flew back to a long-buried past. Gracious heavens! I must be dreaming—it can never be! Still he gazed intently into my eyes, seeming to penetrate my very soul; then I saw his expression change into one of ineffable tenderness, and a beautiful smile rippled over his face.
All doubt was now at an end; this was indeed no dream, no hallucination. I had seen that face before—seen those features in a less glowing and glorified form than that in which they now shone upon me, and I knew where I had seen them!
Something, which I had vaguely imagined might just be within the bounds of possibility, was now proved to be not only possible, but an accomplished fact.
Memories of the past rushed over me like swelling waves, and I seemed swept away by their surging billows. I gazed and gazed, in almost incredulous wonder, at that glorious being who stood there regarding me with an expression of ineffable affection; and my heart seemed to melt within me as the re-awakened love for a long-lost form stirred every fibre of my body and thrilled me through and through. Then, overwhelmed by the intensity of my emotions, I threw myself into his arms, crying aloud, "Oh, Mark! my boy! my boy!"
WHAT IS IN A NAME!—THE STORY OF MERNA
Yes, this glorious being was indeed the son whom I had lost on the earth! It would be utterly impossible for me to describe the pathos and affection of that meeting with one whom I thought had passed for ever out of my present life, or the intensity of my emotions and the overflowing gratitude with which I gazed once more upon the face of my lost loved one, now so unexpectedly and wonderfully restored to me. Such emotions as I then experienced are beyond description by any pen or any tongue.
Whilst I was thus overwhelmed with emotion, my son exhibited the most dignified calm; yet his words and sympathy were as tender as those of a mother soothing a suffering child. Having at last brought me into a calmer state of mind, he said: "Yes, I, who am now called Merna, am indeed he who was once your son upon the earth; and I am indeed he who in heart and soul is at this moment as truly and affectionately your son, though living in another world, possessing another body, and called by another name!
"Oh, how I have yearned for this meeting, and through what long years have I studied and striven to bring it about!"
"You have brought it about, my boy!" I cried in amazement. "Why, how was that?"
"It is too long a story to narrate now," he replied, "for we have a duty to perform, and must not stay here. We must now show ourselves to the people outside, who have long waited to greet you! You shall hear more to-night; but, in the meantime, do not make known my identity to my old friend, John, until after I have left you. You may tell him then and prepare him for our meeting to-night."
I noticed when he was speaking that sometimes he lapsed into a phrase or two of the Martian language, and that his English was spoken as it would be by a foreigner not fully acquainted with our language.
Before we left the pavilion I asked him to tell me what office was held by the high personage who had occupied the dais on our arrival, and he explained that "he was Soranho, the present ruler of Mars!"
"Emperor or King?" I inquired.
"We have neither of those dignitaries here," he answered. "He is the Chief of the General Council of the entire world of Mars, elected to that office for a certain term by the whole body of the people. But now we must not keep the Chief waiting any longer."
So we passed out together to join the Chief of the Council on the dais, and, standing near it, we saw John and M'Allister, who were gazing around with intense interest upon the assembled multitude.
The Chief advanced to meet us, and greeted me with even more cordiality than at first, if that were possible; then he said a few words of congratulation to Merna, and conducted us to the front of the dais.
The people were now all massed together before the dais in long parallel lines, or ranks, and, as the Chief brought me forward, there came a tremendous shout of welcome from the multitude.
The Chief made a brief speech in the Martian language (which of course neither I nor my two companions understood), in which, as Mark afterwards explained to me, he gave a short account of how I had arrived there from the earth with my two colleagues—the first inhabitants of that world to set foot upon Mars! He told them that my coming was all owing to the devoted love and influence of Merna, who in a former life upon the earth had been my son.
What Mark did not tell me was that the Chief had spoken in terms of very high appreciation of the talents Mark had displayed, and of the success which had attended his great endeavour to exert his influence over that immense distance of space which separated the two worlds, and practically compel me to obey his wishes by undertaking a journey to Mars.
I learnt this afterwards from others, and found that a similar modesty and reticence was a general characteristic of the Martians.
The acclamations of the people at the conclusion of the Chief's speech were almost deafening, and I frequently distinguished the name of "Merna" amongst their ejaculations. Whatever was the purport of the Chief's statement, it undoubtedly afforded the most intense satisfaction to all those who heard it.
The assembly now began to disperse in the most orderly manner, many of the people gathering round the Areonal, and apparently discussing with interest its construction and equipment, but none pressed upon our little party. There was neither rude curiosity nor any embarrassing attentions bestowed upon us, such as would have been so unpleasantly in evidence in any similar circumstances upon the earth.
"Merna" asked me to be good enough to excuse him for the present as he had something to attend to urgently; then he took leave of us for the time, remarking that we need have no anxiety about the Areonal, for it would be perfectly safe and well looked after.
The Chief, and some of the officials to whom he now introduced us, then accompanied us to another pavilion, where we partook of a little light refreshment. The chief then took his leave, after promising that we should meet again to-morrow.
One of the officials informed me that a residence was in readiness for our occupation, and that it was situated within a very short distance from where we stood. He asked whether we would proceed there in an electric carriage, or whether we would prefer to walk; and, as we wished to get accustomed to walking on our new world, we decided to go on foot.
We saw around us in every direction large numbers of flying machines of all descriptions, also electric and other motors, which had conveyed the people to our landing-place. Most of the motors were very light and elegant in appearance, and those intended for conveying only a single person were but little larger than our motor tricycles. There was not the slightest noise from the machinery, nor any fumes emitted like those we had found so great a nuisance on the earth. The Martians had evidently overcome all such difficulties, if they had ever experienced them; and their methods were doubtless far in advance of the use of evil-smelling petrol.
We noticed that very many of the people were walking in a manner which suggested that they had a long journey before them; and, on mentioning this to the official in attendance, he told us that walking was so easy on Mars, both on account of the small gravitation and the generally level surface of the country, that most Martians preferred walking unless much pressed for time, or the distance to be traversed was very great.
Though the sun was shining brilliantly the heat was not at all oppressive. As we passed along we noticed that the buildings all stood separate from each other, open spaces or trees, flowers or shrubs being around each of them.
We saw no evidence of overcrowding of buildings on small areas of land like there was in the world we had left. Plenty of air and open space seemed to be the general rule, at least upon this part of Mars.
After a very short walk we arrived at our dwelling, an elegant little building of white stone, and only two storeys in height. There was such a general appearance of comfort and homeliness about it, both inside and out, that M'Allister exclaimed: "Professor, I never thought coming to Mars meant a reception like this. I rather expected to have had a fight when we landed!"
John, too, expressed his delight at the kind manner in which we had been received, then asked me, "Who was that splendid young fellow who came out of the pavilion with me, and stood by my side on the dais?"
"I'll tell you presently, John," I replied, "after we have had some solid refreshment, and are quite alone."
"One would think there was some mystery about him, Professor, by the way you speak," he answered.
"Perhaps there is a little more mystery in the whole affair than you dream of," I remarked.
"Anyhow," said John, "you seem very pleased over it, whatever it may be, Professor; for I never saw you so delighted in your life as you have appeared during the last hour."
"Yes, John, I am indeed pleased," I replied, "and so will you be when you know what I know."
"You quite arouse my curiosity," he said; "still, I suppose I must wait a little longer to be enlightened; but we came to Mars to find out secrets."
Just then we had to cease our conversation, for we were conducted into a room where we found a most tempting looking repast ready for our delectation, and the attendants showed us to our respective seats.
All the comestibles were fruits, nuts, or vegetables of various kinds, and I saw nothing there in the nature of flesh meat. Some of the fruits and nuts resembled the products of our own world, especially some of our eastern products; but most of them were entirely unknown to us, though they all looked tempting and good.
We certainly did full justice to them, and were particularly attracted by some large bunches of what were evidently Martian grapes, each grape being as large as one of our egg-plums. We tried some of these, and found them most delicious, as indeed were all the other eatables we consumed.
Though used to a meat diet, we found this meal most satisfying; the fruits being so refreshing that we had neither desire nor need for drink, though it stood there ready for us if we wished to take it. The attendants waited upon us assiduously, bringing us the various dishes in what was apparently their regular order of courses.
Both John and M'Allister appeared to enjoy their first Martian meal as much as I did, and when we adjourned to another room at its conclusion, were loud in their expressions of appreciation.
When this topic had died down, I thought the time had arrived to make the important disclosure of the first results of our visit to the red planet.
They listened to my story in amazement, and with many exclamations of surprise; whilst, as for John, he was almost beside himself with delight on learning that he would once more meet his long-lost friend, and he rose and shook hands with me, at the same time warmly congratulating me on my wonderful reunion with my son.
"Professor," said M'Allister, also rising and shaking my hand, "I'm as glad for your sake as if I had found a son of my own!"
I thanked them both very heartily for their kind congratulations. Then John said to me—
"Professor, it is, without exception, the most extraordinary thing I ever heard of in my life; but what strikes me as most singular about it is the strange coincidence connected with your son's name!"
I did not understand this allusion to Mark, so asked what was the strange coincidence to which he referred.
"Well, Professor," he said, "excuse me if I answer your question by asking another one. How was it you gave your son the name of Mark, and what was the particular reason for your doing so?"
"No particular reason, John, so far as I am aware," I replied, "except that it always seemed to me a good, plain, and honest sort of a name."
"Do you know the meaning of the name?" he then asked.
"Well, yes, I think so; for one thing, I believe it means 'polite,'" I said; "and another meaning I have read is a 'hammer.' But really, John, I had no thought of meanings at all when I chose that name for him."
"That only makes it all the more strange," John answered. "I have seen those meanings you mention as attached to the name; but you seem to have quite missed the most important one of all, for I can tell you, Professor, that the name 'Mark' means 'Son of Mars!' Now don't you see the coincidence, when you find that he really has become a son of Mars!"
"Really, John," I answered, "I assure you that I never heard of that before; the coincidence is, as you say, most singular and extraordinary; but, taking all things into consideration, I am inclined to think there must be something more than coincidence when they work out like this. You know your Shakespeare, John, and he says most truly: 'There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.' I will not repeat the hackneyed phrase about 'more things in heaven and earth——'"
Just then Merna (as I suppose I must now call him, though he will always be "Mark" to me) arrived amongst us, and I at once introduced him to John and M'Allister.
The meeting between the two old friends was delightful to witness, for both seemed over-joyed; and they had so much to say to each other—so many questions to ask.
When the excitement had passed I asked Mark—you see I cannot help calling him by his old name—if he could now furnish me with the further information he had promised, for I was longing to hear all he had to tell.
"Yes," he replied, "I am quite ready, sir;" and then he proceeded to give us details of his life upon Mars. It is too long a story to tell exactly as he told it—and sometimes he was at a loss to express himself appropriately in English—but, shortly, it was as follows:—
His birth upon Mars, as we found from a comparison of dates, must have followed almost immediately after his passing from the earth; and he said he thought that his two previous seizures were probably abortive attempts of his spirit to depart earlier.
His Martian father was the brother of Soranho, the present Chief of the Council; both his father and mother, however, had died when Merna was quite a child, and the Chief had since brought him up like his own son, and was very much attached to him.
When Merna was still very young he was extremely fond of looking at the stars in the clear Martian skies, being especially attracted by the earth, which was a very brilliant star in those skies when the planet was in the most favourable position for viewing it. He used to watch the earth pass through its various phases, the same as we see Venus; and as time went on he had a strong feeling or intuition that, at some unknown period, he had been upon, or in some way connected with, the earth!
This feeling became more and more intense, so that his thoughts were constantly directed towards our world, and ultimately he became firmly convinced that he had once lived upon the earth.
He told us, amongst other things, that the Martians possess senses and powers which we do not possess, and know nothing of. For instance, he said that any Martian of ordinary intelligence always knew what was in the mind of any one with whom he was speaking; therefore any attempt to prevaricate or mislead was folly and useless. In some cases this power extended over a long distance, and the thoughts of others could be read as easily as when they were close at hand. So for this reason, and not only because it is considered wrong, prevarication is never practised on Mars.
Again, a Martian can transmit his thoughts over any distance upon the planet, and influence thereby any one whom he could influence in ordinary conversation.
Some, who had given especial attention to the training and development of this faculty, could even transmit their thoughts to other worlds; but the influence exercised in such cases depended entirely upon whether the inhabitants of other worlds had attained not only a sufficient degree of intelligence, but also the power to assimilate and make use of such outside influences, either consciously or unconsciously.
Having become convinced that he had once lived upon the earth, his interest in it was greatly intensified, and he felt a consuming desire to know more. He therefore used his utmost endeavours to train and develop his faculties, with a view to finding out something more definite. His uncle was informed of his desires in this respect, as well as of his reasons for them; and he placed Merna under the tuition of two Martians who had developed these special faculties to the highest degree then possible.
After pursuing this course of instruction and training for some time, Merna found that he was gradually becoming more and more acquainted with details of his former life, and was also gradually relearning the language he had spoken upon the earth.
Soon he was able to recall from his sub-consciousness the names of persons, and also of places and things, with which he had been acquainted in his previous life; and what he thus learnt he imparted to his uncle, his two teachers, and to a few other Martians.
The knowledge thus very slowly acquired and gradually built up led to a thirst for still further knowledge; so he then tried to transmit his thoughts to the earth, and, if possible, to influence me, his father, whom he felt certain was still living.
He paused in his statement, and then asked me to tell him "When I first thought of making a trip to Mars, and also whether I had not, long before then, constantly been in the habit of thinking about the planet?"
I told him the date when I first made the suggestion of our trip to John, and added that he was quite right in supposing I had long previously been occupied with thoughts about Mars.
"Yes," he replied, "the date you give is quite correct. I had for years been trying to influence you to take a deep interest in this planet, and after that to influence you to build a vessel which would bring you here; and, on the very day you mention, I felt quite certain I had succeeded."
"My two friends then joined me in transmitting further influences to enable you to conceive the proper kind of vessel and machinery, and how it should be constructed. These latter influences seem, from what you have told me, to have been assimilated by John to a larger extent than by yourself; and this, no doubt, was owing to his higher development of engineering and mechanical genius. The result, however, has been most satisfactory. You, whom I had so long yearned to see, were brought to embark upon this long voyage through space; I knew when you had done so, and also that John and another accompanied you. I also knew exactly when you would arrive here, for mentally I saw your chart and knew many of your thoughts."
"But," interposed John at this stage, "was it not rather a risky and dangerous experiment to influence inhabitants of another world to make what was practically an invasion of Mars? Even if it were possible, we should be afraid to do such a thing upon our earth, for fear of disastrous developments later on."
"There was no danger at all," he replied. "I think you found you could not land here just where you pleased!"
"Ah, that we did," said M'Allister; "and we were never so mystified in our lives."
"So, Mark," I said, laughing as I spoke, "that was your work, was it?"
"I certainly helped in doing it," he replied smilingly. "We have the means of electrifying a very large area of space anywhere, either upon our planet or at any required height above it, in such a manner as to neutralise the power of any vessel that could possibly come here, and thus stop its progress entirely when we so desired. We let you go on a short distance and then stopped you, again and again; and when we stopped you, we took care to arrange the forces so that you could not in any event fall to the planet even if the whole of your machinery failed to act. You were, as you know, compelled to descend exactly where we wished you to; and, in fact, exactly where we had previously decided you should land!"
"Well," exclaimed M'Allister excitedly, "if this doesn't beat all I ever experienced! To think now that all our movements and impulses have been engineered and controlled from Mars; not only just recently, but for months and years past. Mon, it's marvellous!"
"Marvellous to you, no doubt," said Merna, "but only a commonplace happening here. It is very satisfactory to us that our endeavours to influence you to come to this planet have proved successful in the main essentials. The influence does not, however, appear to have been quite effective as regards your steering to the landing-place we had decided upon. We had hoped there would have been no necessity for interfering with your movements by means of the electrical waves."
"Well, Merna," I answered, "you certainly succeeded in imbuing me with a desire to land at Sirapion, but my two companions were more attracted by the 'Gordian Knot'; and it was only because I subordinated my own inclinations to theirs that you were compelled to use force to make us proceed in the right direction. However, it has resulted in our having one of the most exciting and mystifying experiences of our lives; and, now all has ended happily, I do not think any one of us regrets that the incident occurred."
"Certainly I do not," John remarked.
"Neither do I," said M'Allister; "although I must confess I never felt so entirely beaten in my life."
"Well, now you understand that it had to be done," said Merna. "As I remarked, there was no danger to us in your coming here; for, if we had desired it, we could have utterly destroyed your vessel before it reached the planet, just as easily as we stopped your progress; or we could have destroyed it with equal ease and without any risk to ourselves after you had landed."
"My word," said M'Allister, "I'm right glad we did not come here as enemies!"
"Yes," replied Merna; "it was just as well you did not. We do not make war, but we have full means of protecting ourselves against attack if it should ever be necessary to do so. So you will understand that no invasion of Mars from outer space is possible."
I then turned to Merna and said, "There is one question I should like to ask you before we part this evening: Can you tell me the meaning of the word 'Tetarta,' which Soranho, your chief, told me was the name by which your world is known to its inhabitants?"
"Oh yes, sir," he answered; "'Tetarta' means 'the fourth world,' and thus indicates our position in the solar system. Sometimes, however, the name 'Tetartoecumene' is used; but this does not find general acceptance amongst us, as it means 'the fourth inhabited world,' and therefore assumes rather too much.
"We know the earth is inhabited, and have some reason to believe that Venus is also; but with regard to Mercury we have no knowledge at all upon this point. Mercury, as seen from Mars, is always too close to the sun for us to learn much about it by optical investigation; and we have never been certain that we have either received influences from there or been able to transmit influences to the planet."
"Thank you, Merna," I replied, "that clears up the matter; and it seems to me that your names are much more appropriate than the one by which your world is known to us on the earth; for, on account of its red colour, we have, as you are aware, named it 'Mars,' after our mythical god of war. I gather from what you have told us that war is now quite unknown upon your planet, so our name is quite inappropriate."
"Yes, that is so, sir," he answered; "and, later on, I hope you will learn much more concerning our social conditions, and that you will find we are a fairly developed and civilised people."
He then took leave of us, promising to see us again in the morning for the purpose of showing us about our new world.
It was now rather late, so, after discussing for a while the events of this most exciting day, we retired to rest. My thoughts, however, were so many and so tumultuous that it is scarcely a matter of wonder that a very long time elapsed before sleep came to me.
WE LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT THE POWERS OF THE MARTIANS
The next morning Merna arrived early, and breakfasted with us; and, as soon as the meal was over, we started out. The air was bracing and exhilarating, and we felt so extremely light and buoyant that we almost seemed to want to run, skip, and jump, as we did in our early childhood's days.
We went first to have a look at the Areonal, but, on arriving at the open space where we had left it, were unable to see it! The dais had been cleared away, also the pavilions; whilst in the centre of the open space there was a large building.
We felt rather puzzled at this change, for we were sure no such building stood there yesterday. Merna, however, led us across to it, and touched a switch, which swung open a pair of large doors so that we could see into the interior of the building.
There we saw our own good ship, the Areonal, safely housed in a substantial-looking building, which had apparently sprung up in a single night.
We all looked at Merna inquiringly, and he smiled, saying, "Ah, you are not used to the Martian way of doing things! This seems to you very quick work, no doubt; but the erection of the building was not such a heavy and laborious task as it would have been upon the earth. Owing to the lesser gravitation here, and to the larger physical development of our people on Mars, one man can accomplish in the same time what it would require many men to achieve upon the earth. Besides, we have labour-saving machinery and apparatus which your scientific men have not yet even dreamt of.
"Thus, what seems to you an extraordinary piece of work to be finished in so short a time, is really nothing out of the common here, especially as the structure is only of a temporary character."
"Mon," said M'Allister, turning to John, "if our earth had been like Mars we wouldn't have taken so many months to build our vessel and its shed!"
John answered him, and turning to Merna, said, "There is something I am very anxious to ask you about, as it concerns myself and my relations with the inhabitants of this planet. I do not wish to infringe any of their regulations here, or to give any cause of offence, but——"
Then Merna held up his hand, and smiling, said, "You need not say any more, John; I know exactly what you wish to ask me; and, without it being said, can reply to you. You may smoke as much as you like when out-doors, without fear of offending any one here; but in public or private assemblies, notice what others do, and act accordingly. It is true only a small proportion of our population indulge in smoking, except in the colder regions; but please understand that amongst us Martians there are few restrictions as to conduct or custom, and, provided that nothing really dangerous or annoying to the community is done, every one can please himself.
"We leave all such things to the good sense of the individual, and a Martian can be trusted to regulate his habits and conduct without needing penalties to compel the observance of regulations or restrictions."
We looked at each other significantly, but without saying anything; for we all realised the truth of Merna's statement of the previous evening to the effect that the Martians were able to divine what might be in the mind of another without his having to speak. Not one of us had mentioned smoking before Merna, yet he knew exactly what John had upon his mind and was about to ask him.
I thought it was my turn now to obtain some information, so said to Merna, "There is also something which I am very anxious to ask you about."
"Oh yes, sir," replied he, again smiling; "you are anxious to know whether we really possess an elaborate system of canalisation upon Mars, and I can soon set your mind at rest upon that point. Indeed, it was in order to make arrangements for conducting you to inspect some of the canals that I left you yesterday after parting with the Chief.
"Our seas and other large bodies of water have long ceased to exist, and we are therefore dependent upon the water arising from the dissolving snow of our polar snow-caps for a supply of that prime necessary of life. Our canal system is, therefore, the most supremely important work which we have to maintain and develop, so that every part of the planet may be supplied with water, and also kept in touch with the rest of the planet. You must clearly understand that upon the adequacy and perfect working of the canals all life here is dependent; so every other matter is regarded as of lesser importance."
I may here say that we afterwards learnt that the positions of the higher officials connected with the administration of the canal system are regarded as amongst the highest and most honourable offices that a Martian can aspire to; and, moreover, that Merna himself held a very responsible position in the engineering department connected with the canals.
Merna then went on to say: "You will see for yourselves, presently, what our canals are like; for I am about to take you across to a point where you will have a good view over the country.
"As our canals are such conspicuous features upon our planet, especially where they cross the deserts, our experts have long been endeavouring, by various means, to transmit influences to the earth, in order to direct your people's attention to the regular lines they form, and thus convince them that Mars is inhabited by intelligent beings. Probably it is the case that very few of your scientific men are endowed with intelligences both sufficiently advanced, and sufficiently adaptable and receptive of new ideas, to enable them to assimilate and make use of the influences thus transmitted; but still we know that some must have grasped the situation."
"Merna," I answered, "that is quite true; but, of course, I cannot say whether it has been the result of Martian influences. Thirty years ago one of our great observers saw and mapped many of the canal lines; and years before that, others had seen them imperfectly, and drawn portions of them on their maps. Our first and greatest exponent of the idea that they were really canals was, however, Professor Lowell, an American astronomer, whose fame has spread all over our world. He has not only been a constant observer of Mars for many years, but has mapped out your canal systems from observations made by himself and his colleagues. He has also formulated a reasonable and, as it now appears, true explanation of their object and purpose; as well as demonstrating their existence to be a prime necessity for the well-being of your people.
"It is true he has met with much opposition; not only from those who have but limited knowledge, and refuse to believe anything they cannot see themselves, but from the older school of astronomers, who are not very receptive of new ideas; and who are, perhaps, naturally reluctant to admit the inadequacy or inaccuracy of their early theories. This is a very common failing with experts of all kinds, and we have had many instances of it in connection with astronomy all through our history; but we have amongst us many intelligent persons who are open to conviction, being unfettered in regard to particular theories. They are, therefore, not only willing, but eager to examine the evidence which has been collected, and to form their own opinions on the subject."
"I am very glad to hear you say so, sir," replied Merna; "and now I would like to ask you whether, during the last thirty-five years or so, there has not been an extraordinary advance in knowledge amongst your people in connection with such sciences as electricity, telegraphy, light and engineering, as well as in astronomy?
"I ask because our experts have been most earnestly endeavouring during that time to transmit some of their knowledge on these subjects to your scientific people on the earth, and we have some reason to believe that their efforts have been, at least, partially successful."
I assured him that our advance in regard to these subjects had really been phenomenal during the period he mentioned. Probably during no previous period in the history of our world had so many useful, important, and even amazing discoveries been made during such a short space of time.
I gave particulars of the great discoveries and rapid developments in connection with electricity, wireless telegraphy, the telephone, Hertzian waves, X and N rays, spectroscopy, colour-photography, and telectrography. I also mentioned the discovery of radium, helium, and argon; the medical use of light and bacteriology; together with the invention of the turbine engine, motor cars, flying machines; also phonographs and other kinds of talking machines.
Merna expressed himself as very gratified at this information; and remarked that our progress would be still more rapid in the future, as it was quite evident that there were terrestrial intelligences which were readily receptive, and capable of high development. He promised that what I had told him should be made known in the proper quarters; and added that the Martians would be encouraged to persevere in their efforts to impart such knowledge as would aid in the general advancement of science in our world.
He then asked me, "Whether, in connection with new discoveries, it had been found that more than one person had developed the new ideas about the same time?"
"Yes, Merna," I replied; "it has often been observed that similar inventions have been made by several people at the same time: although they have worked quite independently, and were totally unaware of what was being done by each other."
"That," said Merna, "is a natural consequence of these influences; for they are in the air, so to speak, and have only to be brought into connection with the appropriate intellects to be assimilated and carried into effect."
I then asked him if he could explain how the influences acted; and he replied that in most cases they formed a sort of mental picture, which would be mentally seen and understood by a person sufficiently endowed with the necessary knowledge; but if he were not so endowed, or not receptive of new ideas, then he would learn nothing from the influences.
Thus a mental picture of some new and unknown piece of machinery would mean nothing to an unmechanical mind, or even to a mechanical mind which was not endowed also with the inventive faculty. In other cases only thoughts in the abstract could be sent, and these were more likely to remain unassimilated than the mental pictures, as a very high order of intellect was required to receive such thoughts.
I then informed him that our greatest and most daring electrician, Nicola Tesla, was firmly convinced that he had discovered planetary disturbances of an electrical nature which had reached our world. This occurred as far back as the year 1899; and, in the course of later scientific investigations, he found that the disturbances could not have come from the sun, the moon, or Venus. Further study has, he says, quite satisfied him that they must have emanated from Mars.
I added that Tesla was at work perfecting an apparatus which he was convinced would be the means of putting him into communication with other planets, by means of a wireless transmitter. This, he states, will produce vibrations of enormous power, and he has devised a means of producing oscillations of the most tremendous intensity. He states that he has actually passed a current round the earth which attained many millions of horse-power, and feels assured that he has already succeeded in producing electrical disturbances on Mars by the aid of this current. "Those disturbances," he adds, "are much more powerful than anything which could be obtained by means of light reflectors, no matter how large such reflectors might be, or how wide an area they might be made to cover."
At the same time I pointed out that these are Tesla's own statements, and not mere second-hand reports or newspaper inventions!
Merna said that this information was really very gratifying, and gave him the greatest satisfaction; for it showed that the Martians' endeavours to communicate with us would ultimately be successful, because there was at least one man upon the earth capable of devising the necessary apparatus for receiving and transmitting such communications. He further remarked that it was quite true that electrical disturbances had reached Mars from another planet, but added that no effective communication was possible by means of light rays, as the two planets were never so situated in regard to each other as to render such a mode of signalling practicable.
I was just about to speak when Merna held up his hand to enjoin silence, and stood as though he were listening attentively to some communication.
After a minute or so he told us he had just received a mental communication from Soranho, stating that he had despatched a messenger to us with an urgent letter. Then he added, "We had better wait here until the messenger arrives."
"So," I said, "your wireless telegraphy is evidently much in advance of ours, for you seem to dispense with apparatus altogether!"
"Yes, sir," he replied; "you see this is one of the senses I told you we Martians possessed; but some of our people who are somewhat deficient in this sense still use the small pocket receivers and transmitters which have long become obsolete amongst the generality of our population.
"I have already given you two illustrations of the truth of my statement, that we are able to divine what is in each other's mind without it being necessary to speak. Still, I wish you to understand that we never allow this power to spoil conversation. You might, perhaps, think that because we know what each was about to say, the words would remain unsaid, and we would, therefore, be a rather taciturn people. That is not so. The faculty is a very useful one to us on many occasions; but, as I remarked, we never allow it to spoil conversation."
"That seems to me a very sensible and practical arrangement," remarked John.
"Well," replied Merna, "I hope, and I think, you will find us a very sensible and practical nation."
At this moment an official came up to us, and after saluting, handed Merna a packet. Having opened and read the communication it contained, he turned to us and gave each a document which had been enclosed; at the same time saying that it was a formal invitation for our attendance at a banquet in the evening, for the purpose of meeting the Chief of the Council and other high personages, and for social intercourse.
We all expressed our thanks, and, of course, accepted the invitation. The official, having received the requisite reply from Merna, again saluted, and then retired.
WE VISIT THE CANALS AND DISCOVER THEIR SECRET—MARTIAN VIEWS OF LIFE AND DEATH
On Merna's suggestion we walked through the town with the object of inspecting the canals on the outskirts; and we needed no pressing, as we were all eager to see what the canals were like.
We again noted how every house, and almost every building, was isolated from its neighbours. Many of them were very large and exceedingly handsome specimens of architecture, and the streets were wide, straight, and remarkably clean and well kept. The official and administrative buildings were near the centre of the town; their general arrangement and design appearing most excellently adapted to the special requirements of their respective purposes.
Most of them were built of white stone, resembling our marble, which was very hard, and appeared clean and unaffected by weather, although some of the buildings were of considerable age. Others were built of stones of various colours, which added a pleasing variety to the general effect; whilst many were adorned with noble and beautiful domes, towers, and airy-looking minarets.
As we did not propose to inspect these in detail now, we passed on to the outskirts of the town, soon reaching the air-ship station, where we found a vessel in readiness for our trip. We all entered; the ship was at once started, and we proceeded swiftly on our journey.
Merna then told us that all public means of transit, over the whole area of the planet, were provided and maintained by the State, for the free use of all who needed to travel. The passengers neither paid fares nor received tickets; they simply stepped into the proper conveyance and went wherever they desired to go. A record was kept of the number of passengers carried; for, as each passenger entered, a number was automatically registered by a small machine under the footboard, the exit being by another door.
Small air-ships, motors, and boats could be engaged by single persons or small parties who did not wish to travel in the larger public conveyances; and any person was at liberty to provide a private conveyance for his own use, but the public ones were so numerous and convenient that very few people kept their own.
"Hey, mon!" said M'Allister, "the Martians can teach us something. I would like to see such a system at work in our own country!"
"I am afraid you are not likely to see that," said John, "while we have to spend so much upon warlike preparations. If war could be abolished, all the millions of money thus expended could be made available for purposes which would be of real and permanent benefit to the people."
We travelled a distance of some miles, and then the vessel was brought to a standstill.
What a splendid view we then had over the country all around us! the air being so thin and clear that there was very little dimming of the objects in the far distance. Across the country, in line after line, were the canals which we had been so anxious to see, extending as far as the eye could reach! With our glasses we made a detailed examination of several.
Our sensational newspapers have had paragraphs about Martian canals a hundred miles, or even hundreds of miles, wide! Scientific men have also similarly exaggerated, and made remarks about the absurdity of the supposition that such canals really existed.
There is very little excuse for such statements, because Professor Lowell has always been careful to point out that the lines represented broad bands of vegetation, and not the width of the canals.
Now the secret was out! What we actually saw was this: not a single wide canal but a series of comparatively narrow canals, running parallel to each other, with a very wide strip of vegetation between each. Usually the canals were linked together in pairs by smaller cross canals running diagonally from one canal to the other in alternate order. These were the irrigation trenches. Thus from one of a pair of canals an irrigation trench would branch out at an angle of about fifty degrees, and enter the second canal. Higher up, on the same side, another trench would run from the second canal at a similar angle, and enter the first canal, and so on—ad infinitum. In the case of single canals curved loops branched out and re-entered higher up, these loops being made on either side, and similar loops were made on the outsides of paired canals.
As a result of this arrangement it did not matter whether the water passed up the canal at one season of the year or down it at another season, it could always move straight ahead; the irrigation trenches were thus constantly flushed by one or other of the pairs, and there could be no stagnation anywhere. Merna also told us that some canals are provided with a network of trenches, whilst others are embanked so that the water can be let out through sluices when necessary, and thus flood the surrounding land. Thus every requirement can be met.
So far from being a hundred miles wide, it was exceptional for the canals to have a width of more than two hundred yards. Most of those we were looking at were only about sixty feet wide! and only the wider ones are used for navigation purposes. Merna explained why this was so, saying that as the main use of the canals was for irrigation purposes very wide ones were not required; for not only would they be wasteful, but as it was necessary to force the water along by artificial means, it could more conveniently be accomplished in the case of narrow canals, as the wider the canal the more difficult it became to force the water along.
We also observed many splendid wide motor-roads running between the single canals, as well as others running straight across the system, being carried over the canals by the most beautiful and fairy-like bridges that we had ever seen. They were all constructed of a metal identical with our "martalium," which we had used in the construction of the Areonal; so that was undoubtedly another invention which we owed to Martian influences transmitted to us across space!
Nothing more beautiful or graceful than these bridges could be imagined, so light were they in construction, so elegant and varied in design, and every part shining in the sun like burnished silver; they looked like structures composed of rays of light rather than substantial metal! They were a perfect dream of beauty, and we stood a long time examining their elegant construction through our glasses.
"Well," remarked John, "some of our millionaires would give half their fortunes to have such lovely bridges as these in their private parks!"
"Heh, mon!" replied M'Allister, "it's very clear the Martians could teach our engineers something about bridge-building, if nothing else!"
"Wait and see our water-lifting and water-propelling machinery," said Merna; "I think that will be something which will suit you as an engineer!"
I noticed that many of the lines were apparently groves of trees, and asked Merna whether they were canals or not.
"Yes," he replied, "they are canals. You will understand that in the hotter parts of our world it is necessary to protect the water from too rapid evaporation, or else the canals would be almost run dry long before the need for their use ceased at the end of the season. Some are arched over entirely, but in most cases it is sufficient to plant trees along each side. Would you like to examine one?" he asked; "we can do so very soon, if you wish?"
I said I should be glad to do so, and our course was accordingly directed to one of the groves, which appeared to be about two miles distant. It, however, proved to be more than six miles away, for we had not yet become accustomed to the effect of the clear Martian air in making distant objects appear much closer than they really were. However, it did not take long for our air-ship to reach it; and we descended in the space between the canals and then walked over into the grove. When we turned into it, we were greatly surprised at the charming effect of the trees over the canal.
The trees were something like our willows, but taller than elms, and had a multitude of very long, thin, and supple branches, with very little bare trunk. They were planted rather close together, all along each side of the canal, with their trunks sloping slightly towards the water. The long branches thus met at the sides and high overhead, intertwining together, and forming a high leafy archway extending all along the canal in both directions as far as the eye could see. The thick, soft Martian grass along each side of the canal was like a velvet-pile carpet to walk upon; the sunlight filtering between the green leaves of the trees cast bright flecks of light on the clear shimmering water which ran beneath them; whilst water-fowl swimming here and there gave a bright touch of colour and the animation of life which so adds to the general charm of such scenery. Some of the water-fowl were very large birds, with brilliant coloured plumage.